Classical 91.5

Brenda Tremblay

Classical Morning Host and Producer

While you’re sleeping, she’s thinking. 

Thinking about the best ways to wake you up.

A native of Albion, New York, NEA Fellow Brenda Tremblay bolts out of bed each weekday morning at 4:00 a.m. to present classical music on 91.5 FM, streaming at classical915.org.  Before she became a daily host on WXXI-FM in 2009, she tried her hand at every task in public radio, from hosting overnight blues gigs to freelancing for National Public Radio.  Her NPR reports and local documentaries earned three Gracies from the Association of Women in Radio and Television, many AP awards, and a national Gabriel Award. 

In addition to waking up super early, Brenda produces and hosts the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's radio concerts on Monday nights at 8 p.m. She also collaborates with WXXI news to cover the arts across all media services.

Outside the broadcast studio, singing is Brenda’s passion. She’s performed with choirs in Carnegie Hall, Westminster Abbey, and in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.  In Rochester, some of her best memories have been made with friends in the Rochester Oratorio Society and local chamber choirs Madrigalia and First Inversion.  Currently she serves as Music Director at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Brockport, New York.

Brenda Tremblay

Jeanne Gray is a force of nature.

She glows with enthusiasm for lifelong music-making.

“When you’ve got senior citizens who are back doing level one solos and enjoying it, why not?”

Born on October 9, 1926 in Endicott, New York, this great-grandmother has witnessed and shaped music programs across New York State through decades of teaching in Corning, New York and in Webster Central Schools until her so-called "retirement" in 1962. 

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"When I started walking Porter, we went down to Mount Hope Cemetery where there were a lot of hills and great places to visit. It's at that point that I met a whole bunch of other dog people . . . Now, I think of all the connections, all the groups I'm playing in now all just because of walking a dog!"

Joyce DiDonato. Photo: Simon Pauly

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross has a theory about the present state of classical music culture in New York City.  It's back to the future. 

In his words, leading institutions are choosing repertoire that reflect "the eternal return to the world that was." 

Adrian Mann

Piano builder Adrian Mann has created a piano with 20-foot strings.  It's been installed in southern New Zealand where the creator hopes keyboardists will test its possibilities.

“You’ve got a huge soundboard, it moves a massive amount of air, and you’ve got that extra bit of grunt behind it. The keys are almost a metre long. There were huge engineering challenges to overcome. When it was first built the sound was quite raw, but it’s now much more refined and tuned and well-regulated.”

John Armato/Courtesy of the artist

Opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick received a double lung transplant in 2009.  She's written a memoir, Encore, about the experience.

"When I woke up from the surgery, I saw the nurses and my mother, and I was just so profoundly grateful to be alive and I opened my mouth to say "thank you" and nothing came out. My voice was gone."

Hear more in this NPR interview with Scott Simon.

Keystone-France/Getty Images

Your friends at WXXI are planning next year's Classical 91.5 Presents film screenings at the Little Theatre.

If you have a suggestion of a movie featuring a classical soundtrack, please zap it to  classical@wxxi.org or make a comment below.

A few months ago, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea for the series -- a mini Stravinsky film festival!

Brenda Tremblay

Soprano Kristin Jarvis was born into a musical family, but her passion for singing derailed when she was eleven years old.

"No matter how miserable I was, I was so grateful that I was able to see for as long as I could because there are some people who are born never being able to see anything.  I'm grateful I had those eleven years.  When I got back into music I think it really helped me finish recovering from all that had happened."

"It's not about me when I'm singing whether it's a solo or in a choir. It's about the music.  I'm just the vessel.  I'm just the one, you know, sending this message out."

Courtesy of SUNY College at Brockport Foundation

On National Poetry Day, let's remember a strange legacy from twentieth century American poet E.E. Cummings. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, an important collection of paintings by Cummings now live in a tiny gallery in a small Upstate New York canal town. 

Are you surprised that Cummings was a painter?  Indeed.  In fact, he thought his artwork was better than his poetry.  For the story (albeit dated) behind the paintings, click here.

Video image from Variety.com

You may be troubled by images of athletes and musicians in silent protest. 

Two singers knelt after singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at separate NFL games on Sunday.  Even many non-football fans are transfixed by the public debate over free speech in sports arenas.  (If you've missed the controversy, catch up here.)

When words fail

Sep 25, 2017
Brenda Tremblay

A music critic wrestles with the limitations of lexicon.

"Music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that it’s beyond description, deeper than words."

Anthony Tommasini is The New York Times’s classical music critic. Read his essay here.

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